Monday, September 18, 2017



Is it true that some are born to lead while others are destined to follow? Can we instill leadership skills into all of our children? These are interesting questions to ponder. The first statement is true. Some people are born with the personality traits and gifts that give them the aptitude to lead without trying too hard. It would be a sad and crazy world indeed, though, if we had all leaders and no followers.

                                           You can’t be a leader if nobody is following.

There are those who like to manage or influence other people and those who would rather follow instructions and just do the work. No matter which category a person falls into, it is imperative that we learn the kind of leadership skills that will encourage others to follow AND protect ourselves from blindly following a negative path.


    * Being a great role model
    * Knowing right from wrong
    * Making wise choices
    * Accepting responsibility for our own actions
    * Respecting authority
    * Forgiving and motivating others
    * Putting others’ needs before our own
    * Trusting others


Firstly, we need to realize that leadership is a training process. It is not merely a trait that you have or don’t have that needs some honing up during the teenage years. From infancy children begin to learn right from wrong as parents explain and train their children how to meet their expectations. God has placed in everyone a sense of knowing right from wrong. Isn’t it amazing that we never have to teach children to be bad, but we do have to teach them how to be good! Consistency in training along with praise for getting it right and good modeling develops this quality.

Setting boundaries and issuing consequences guides a child to learn obedience and to respect authority. By crossing the set boundaries, they are making the choice to take the consequences. The parent is merely carrying out the penalty the child knew would occur, thus teaching them to take responsibility for their own actions.

Making wise choices is learned through positive role-modeling by parents, open communication between child and parent and support when negative choices are made - thus alleviating a similar result next time. Not every decision needs pondered thought. It depends on how it will affect them or others. Parents need to explain the kind of steps that will help produce a positive outcome. How important is this choice to me? Is my decision going to affect anyone else? Is this decision going to alter the course of my career or long term goals?

Making wise choices is all about thinking of the consequences before we act. Too many times we make choices by not doing anything or by being sucked into a negative activity without thinking. Effective leaders are not trapped into holding grudges. By forgiving others, we become free to focus clearly on what is ahead. By working as part of a team we learn to trust others. There is no need to clamber for the glory.

We need to instill leadership qualities into the followers as well as the natural leaders from an early age so that our children make a positive imprint on the world around them. The world needs leaders who can inspire others and lead them on to greatness.

Whether a leader or a follower, our job is to be diligent, committed and obedient.  We all need to understand that a leader is always answerable to someone higher.  That means leaders are also

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families


Whoever said, "THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FAILURE",  has lost touch with the planet earth!


Of course there IS such a thing as failure. It is in the dictionary and it means ‘non-performance of something due or expected’. You can’t gloss over the word and call it something else just because society thinks it is a dirty word. If you refuse to accept the word ‘failure’ you are basically saying that you will not accept that you did not meet the criteria, did not make the grade, or did not meet your expectations. That is life, so get over it!

Not admitting failure is senseless and a product of our indulgent culture. It just means we are not allowing ourselves to learn from the experience and not teaching our children how to deal with  meeting the requirements – whatever they are.

When we were in high school in New Zealand we had to pass a State-wide set of exams the last two years. Only 50% were allowed to pass so that meant an automatic 50% failure rate. It made us work very hard and we all knew that if we didn’t make it, we had to repeat the whole school year again. I repeated one year! My husband, Brian, repeated a year. His two brothers repeated a year. This is reality – the real world. It didn’t really hurt us, although of course we were very disappointed in our own performances. It dented our pride and we wasted a year that we could have been earning. Strangely enough it did us all good because we all ended up going to University, attaining degrees and moving on to great careers.

If we don’t learn early that there are consequences for not meeting expectations, then we will never make it in the adult work world. We will always be making excuses that it was someone else’s fault. No it isn’t. When we put in the hard yards we can enjoy the results.

Now, there are times when we have little choice over whether we win or lose. We can train vigorously for a race, but we cannot guarantee we will be the winner. It is wrong for parents to give kids the message that if you are not the winner, YOU FAILED. That is NOT true! We should not compare ourselves with others, but check ourselves against our own performance. If we are beating our own times, then we are achieving.


a) Accept that there is such a word. Call it what it is.
b) Acknowledge the disappointment, but show your kids how failing this time doesn’t mean
    failing every time. Help your kids learn from the experience and show them how to improve their
    chances next time. Help them set goals for improvement and reward the small steps.
c) Don't shy away from expecting great things from your kids. They love meeting your expectations
    as long as you show them how.
d) Celebrate success, but also celebrate effort.
e) Be a great role model. Be a parent that is pushing the envelope. When you don't succeed as
    expected, talk to your kids about it and show them what you are doing to succeed next time.
e) Do not accept defeat. Our young grandsons' motto is 'Never Give Up!'

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families



As we grow older it seems that there is less and less respect in the world. I find myself saying, “I would never have spoken to my father like that when I was a kid.” Along with lack of respect there seems to be a general lack of healthy fear. I do not think we should be frightened of our parents or of those in authority, but respect for others and fear of the consequences should stop us from making negative choices.


They place little or no value in themselves or in other people.
They may have come from a disrespectful home environment.


To instill respect in our children we need to understand the meaning of respect. Respect is demonstrated by holding high regard for authority, position, possessions and living things, and also by being courteous. We can train our kids to be respectful from the time they are toddlers and we need to continue to train them right up until they leave home. It is an ongoing process. The simplest way to develop respect in your kids is to decide what ‘respect’ will look like in your home. Here are some suggestions:

Respect in this home means that:
a) We are obedient to our parents and those in authority over us.
b) We do not interrupt others.
c) We do not fight with one another or take others’ stuff without asking.
d) When we borrow others’ stuff we look after it as if it were our own, give it back
     when we said we would and return it in as good condition as we received it.
e) We speak kindly to one another and will not raise our voices in anger.
f) We tell the truth and keep our promises.
f) We respect our grandparents by visiting them or calling them regularly.
g) We thank people for doing kind things for us.
h) We take care of our pets and the environment.


We expect our kids to be respectful, but respect is a fragile thing. It is lost when we disappoint our kids by being poor examples. If we shout at them, speak disparaging words to them, break our word, or ignore them, they have nothing to respect in us as parents.

We have to learn to say, “Sorry” for critical words said in haste or if we administered inappropriate discipline. We need to admit we make mistakes sometimes and ask for forgiveness from our spouse and our kids. If we can identify what being respected feels like to us, then we will know what our kids need. If they respect us, we can be fairly confident that they will also respect others.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families



Keeping secrets can be fun and they can be lethal.  I think we know the difference.
I love surprises and often find myself telling those in the know, not to tell anyone until the surprise is sprung.  My daughter hatched this great idea of surprising her husband for his 50th birthday.  She worked on it for a whole year, terrified the whole time that somehow he would find out before the big day.  It involved getting video messages from his school friends, university friends and the like.  About nine months before the event she asked me what we were doing on the weekend of ....  I said, "I don't know, Kristee. What ARE we doing that long distance ahead?"  She then asked me if seven of Tim's friends could take over our house for the weekend.  Of course we agreed and we spent that weekend staying at our neighbor's house. 

It was such a fun time. On the day, after the videos were shown of people who wished they could be there, but were unable to do so, they all quietly materialized from their hiding spot and gave him the fright of his life.  Now that is a fantastic surprise!


What about secrets within the family?  Those that start off with,
a) 'Don't tell Mom and Dad where I am going, that I smoke pot, that I have been sneaking the
     liquor out of the cabinet, that I smoke....'
b) 'Don't you dare tell anyone what goes on in this house.'
c) 'I know Mom/Dad has a new boy/girlfriend and I can't say anything.'
d) 'The next door neighbor has been touching me where I know he shouldn't, but my family
     and theirs are good friends and I can't tell anyone because they wouldn't believe me.
e) 'I am afraid of Uncle Sid, or the baby sitter.'
f) 'I am afraid of the dark, but everyone calls me a 'scaredy-cat'.'


From experience, I know what a terrible thing it is to be very afraid of someone, yet not know it
is OK to tell someone.  My parents wondered why I would cry often for no reason and I didn't even know why myself, but now I look back and realize the root of it. Those were the days when no-one talked about, or made kids aware of, this thing called child-molestation.


1. Are we aware of our child's psychological health?  Are they acting differently than usual ... quiet,
    moody, tearful or aggressive? Are their school grades suffering?
2. Are we aware of our child's friendships, who they talk to on social media, or whether they are  
    becoming secretive?
3. Are we aware of how much or little time we are actually spending with our children to notice
    mood or behavioral changes?


Talk to your children about good and bad secrets.  Explain the difference.  Encourage your children to talk about things that worry them and explain that they will not get into trouble with you if they talk an issue through with you, because, while you teach them strong values and you show them the right way, home needs to be a soft place for them to land.  They have to be allowed to make mistakes.  (How many times have you said to yourself, 'I won't do THAT again!')

If they don't feel like they can talk to you, then encourage them to talk to someone they trust even if it is not an immediate family member.

We must teach them the difference between OK and NOT OK 'touching'.  We must teach them how to live safely and how to avoid dangers.  We need to put them through a course of self-defense.  We must teach them emergency exercises, safe places to hide, how to call 911, people they should contact and their phone numbers, etc.

Our children are our greatest responsibility.  We must protect them at all cost.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Sunday, August 20, 2017


I wonder if we really grasp the significance of two-way conversations with our kids? Much of our time is spent talking at them rather than enjoying their contributions and seeking out their opinions. Maybe it is because we spend so much of the early training years telling them what to do, we don’t realize the point at which our kids begin to think for themselves, and have valuable input into our conversations.

The best way to get kids to talk to you is to create time for it to happen. Kids will know they are really being listened to when we stop what we are doing, sit down, eyeball them, and act like we have nothing else to do. Kids always know when we are not really listening. It has something to do with the lack of enthusiastic response like ‘ah-huh!’ My daughter says to me, “Mom, I know you are thinking about something else. What did I just say?” Fortunately I can always repeat what she just said, but I have to admit that my brain is often multi-tasking and I am not giving her my full attention.

When we don’t listen, kids can feel like we don’t care and may give up talking to us. They will often go elsewhere for that sympathetic ear they need. The sympathetic ear may not always be attached to someone we would want our child to have a relationship with. If we don’t listen, we lose valuable opportunities to guide them and, unfortunately, in some instances they will close us out.

Here are some times, places, and opportunities we have found that stimulate two-way conversations with our kids. When kids first come home from school they often like to just sit quietly and unwind. Let them do that for 10 minutes or so. If you are home, then chat with them over a snack with the TV off. It’s a great time for kids to recount the day’s events.

Eating at the family table together is the perfect time to support and encourage one another by sharing accomplishments and concerns. The family table needs to be positive and not a time to deal with disciplinary matters. Even if a child is misbehaving at the table the parent needs only to quietly remove the child so the rest of the family can enjoy positive table talk. If you make dinnertime a place for listening to one another, then you will find kids won’t want to miss out on this regular event. As mentioned in a previous article, by sitting at the family table for meals, without the TV on, kids are far less likely to get into trouble. Why is this? I believe it is because by sharing together, individuals feel they have value. They talk about issues and how to handle them. They know they have the support of the family.

There are many other opportunities to listen to your kids. Take them out, one by one on a date – a special time with a parent. Do what they want to do and talk about what they want to talk about. Make it quantity and quality time. Going to the movies, the library, a ball game, or watching TV together are good for building positive relationships. However, if you want to have fruitful conversations make sure you pick activities where you can talk. Go to the park. Go to a cafĂ© or other eating establishment. Sit down by a lake, a river, or the beach. Go fishing. Walk a hiking track. Talk about serious and frivolous things. Let the kids express themselves. You need to know what they are thinking, and as they get into their later teens accept that they may see things differently than you do.

The important thing is to ground them in strong family values so that when others present them with opinions that differ from their own, their family values will help them to make wise responses.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Saturday, August 19, 2017



When I look back on my own childhood, some wonderful memories come to mind. I come from New Zealand, a country surrounded by sea. I have great recollections of summers at the beach, of playing in the sand, getting sunburned to a frazzle and of swimming in the creeks. Although I come from a broken home, I still have great memories of the people who came into my life and shared their love and leadership with me.


What is it that tips the balance towards good or negative memories in our childhood? One thing I am eternally grateful for is that, although my Dad could have done so, he never made one negative remark about my mother who left the family when I was 14 months old. He had every opportunity to do so, but he shielded my brother and me from his grief, which allowed our childhood memories to be happy ones. The mind is a wonderful thing when it comes to forgetting certain events. Mothers tend to forget their labors between pregnancies, until the very first pain of the next labor. Then they think, “Oh, no! Whose bright idea was it to have another baby?” Why do they forget this negative experience? Because the long lasting reward far outweighs the short period of discomfort that preceded it.

When you look back on your own childhood experience, what comes to your mind? Do you immediately think of happy times such as family vacations, laughter, adventures, and achievements? Or do you only recall sadness, regret, and negative family experiences? What do you think your parents could have done to make your memories more positive?


Now you are parents and you have the responsibility for creating happy memories for your kids. Here are some suggestions. Involve yourself in your kids’ lives.

a) Find out what they are interested in and encourage them to follow their dreams (not yours).
b) Encourage excellence without creating so much pressure that the activity becomes a drag.
c) Let your kids (within reason) choose some fun or vacation activities.
d) Do fun things as a family. They love you to be with them and playing with them.
e) Make sure that within your weekly plan you set aside special time with each child.
    “What family plan?” I hear some of you say. Well, that is another thing that will help your
     family achieve more. Instead of lurching from one circumstance to the next, claim the time and
     make schedules. This will teach your kids to be planners and be goal-orientated.
f) Make sure you and your kids have plenty of positive friends.
g) Check the atmosphere in your home and insist on positive communication. Praise one another.
     We humans always respond positively to encouragement.
h) Encourage your kids to read so they exercise their imaginations. Knowledge is a powerful and
    stimulating tool.
i) Let your kids play in the dirt. There is nothing like a good old mud or water fight.
j) Show your kids how to keep a journal of vacations and everyday experiences. Take plenty of
    photos. These are great methods of recording memories.

Life is short. We don’t get to practice. This is it. We can choose to create great memories for ourselves, and our kids. Let’s do what Nike says, “Just do it!”